Sunday, 30 October 2011

Strange Birds and their Habits

Later, Verrill in 1938 published ‘Strange birds and their stories. Mysteries of bird life. Migrations. Nesting habits. Birds of beaches and deserts. Winged jewels. Clowns of birddom. Valuable birds. Bird law courts. Bird communists. Flightless birds’.

Strange Birds and their Habits

A. Hyatt Verrill

Popular Science; Dec 1, 1899; researched by Alan Schenker, digitized by Doug Frizzle, October 2011.

Probably every stamp collector who has seen the Guatemalan stamps has noticed the beautiful and graceful bird whose portrait adorns them. This bird, the Quetzal or Resplendent Trogon, is found only in the heavy mountain forests of Mexico and Central America, and would have been far more appropriate as the national emblem of Mexico than of Guatemala, for when Cortez first visited the land of the Montezumas, he found the kings and high priests wearing robes and head dresses composed of the brilliant feathers of the sacred Quetzal.

The male bird is a bright iridescent golden green above, and vivid scarlet below, with a graceful soft green crest, and curved green feathers hanging over the wings, while two or three of the ferny green tail-coverts extend far beyond the black and white tail, often reaching a yard or more in length. The female is much more modestly dressed, hardly a trace of the scarlet appearing on her dull gray breast, while the tail coverts are scarcely longer than the real tail.

Like nearly all the members of the Trogon family, the Quetzal lays its eggs in holes in trees, and the male bird does his share of the sitting. Unless the hole were very large this would be impossible without injury to the ornamental tail coverts, of which these birds are very proud. To overcome this difficulty the Quetzal resorts to the simple but ingenious plan of digging the hole entirely through the trunk of the tree. Thus when sitting on the nest the tail projects outside, and the birds can enter and leave the nest without the necessity of turning about.

In the same forests with the Quetzal may be found a cousin of his, a handsome fellow with burnished steel-blue back and pale yellow breast, who has a still more unique manner of nesting. One day while walking through the woods of Costa Rica, I noticed one of these Trogons perched motionless on a branch near a large hornets' nest. While watching him, he suddenly darted forward, snapped up a hornet and disappeared. Puzzled at the way in which he vanished, I carefully scrutinized the limb, expecting to see him hidden among the leaves. Presently, to my great surprise, he emerged from the opening in the hornets' nest. As these tropical hornets are unusually large and lively, I did not attempt further investigation at that time, but discovered later, that these Trogons always make their nests within the home of the hornets, and, adding insult to injury, feed themselves and young on their hosts.

If, while in these Central American forests, we walk along some mountain stream, and look sharply among the orchid-covered branches of the trees, we may spy a "Motmot" sitting quietly in the deepest shadows of the leaves. These Motmots are rather pretty fellows, bright olive-green above and rusty-green below, with bright blue wings and tail. The top of the head and the cheeks are shining black, bordered with turquoise-blue and violet, which is again edged with black, while in the center of the breast are one or two black feathers.

The most peculiar feature of this bird's plumage, however, is the tail, the two central feathers of which are much longer than the others, and are bare shafts with the exception of a small space at the tip and base. When these feathers first grow out they are like the others, but for some reason the owner thinks he can improve upon nature by shaving. This he does by bending his head down and his tail forward, and using his strong notched bill for a razor, strips off the plumes.

The housekeeping methods of this queer bird are as strange as his shaving, for while the home itself, a long tunnel in some sandy river's bank, is dry and warm, it is far from clean or inviting. Motmots, so lazy as to be averse to foraging for their young day by day, pile the nest full of dead fish and small animals, which soon becomes a mass of maggots, upon which the young birds feed until able to care for themselves. You can readily see that such a nest is not a pleasant one to rob, therefore the Motmots are seldom molested and become so tame and unsuspicious that they are called "Bobos," or fools, by the natives.

Along the fences and roadsides in Central America, one may sometimes catch a glimpse of a small reddish-brown bird, with a short stub tail, from which project two long stiff feathers. This shy and suspicious little chap is a species of wren, and judging from his size no one would believe him to be the maker and owner of the huge nests which are so common in the brushy localities where he lives.

These nests are not nearly so remarkable for their great size as for their curious and clever construction. When the wrens are ready to commence housekeeping, they select a bush or small tree with horizontal branches; across two of these are laid sticks which are fastened securely in place with tough grass and roots until a platform about six feet long and two feet wide is formed. On the end of this platform nearest the tree they build a dome-shaped nest about a foot high, with thick sides of interwoven thorns. From this they build a zigzag or curved tunnel to the outer end of the platform. Across the entrance and at intervals along this passage, are built little thorn fences, leaving holes barely large enough for the birds to squeeze in and out. When leaving the nests the wrens close the doors behind them by placing thorns across these holes. The big dome is filled half full of leaves, soft grass and cotton from the silk-cotton tree, and on this warm bed the mother wren lays the dainty speckled eggs and raises the young she has taken such care to protect from intruders.

On the broad level plains or Llanuras of tropical America are many giant trees standing singly or in groups, and in these the "Caziques" or " Pendulas" build their wonderful swinging nests, sometimes fairly covering the trees, so that from a distance they look like huge pear-shaped fruit. The Pendulas (of which there are several species, the largest about the size of a crow), are relations of our northern Orioles. They are all much alike in color,—dark seal-brown, with the exception of the tail, which is a bright golden yellow, and hence they are known as "yellow-tails" in Nicaragua, Their bill is very large and strong, with a broad horny shield on the forehead and a point like a needle.

The nests of the Pendulas are woven entirely of long tough grass and are often six or eight feet in length, and so strong and closely made that, although they sway with the slightest breeze, yet even in the hurricanes they are seldom blown down or the eggs broken. The lower part of the nest is a large pouch which tapers to a point and is fastened to the tip of a branch by a single strand. The opening is about half-way up the side and so cunningly designed that it is very difficult to discover, being merely a small slit held tightly closed by the weight of the lower part of the nest. In the tropics the greatest enemies of the birds' eggs are the monkeys, and it is to foil these mischievous pests that the Pendulas build such curious nests and select such open situations in which to place them, for doubtless the yellow-tails have learned by experience that the monkeys rarely venture out of the protection of the forests.

You have all read of the "tailor bird," who builds his home within leaves sewn together by the aid of his bill for a needle and a tough root for a thread. But this feathered tailor is not unique in his manner of nesting, for in the same country with the "yellow-tails" and motmots is found a little black and orange oriole, who uses the needle given him by Nature with even greater skill than the better known tailor bird. This brilliant fellow selects for a home a new and large banana leaf, the two drooping sides of which he sews together with grass. Not only are the stitches so fine as to be hardly noticeable, but the little sewer even takes the precaution to run the stitches with the grain of the leaf and close beside one of the narrow veins. Inside of the green and living pocket thus formed, the nest of soft grass and hair is built, and the mother rears her young in safety, with never an outward sign of the hidden treasures within.

Leaf-Cutting Bees

We are having some difficulty in tracking down the existence of this magazine; it is not mentioned in Wikipedia and our web searches have been without success, so far.

Leaf-Cutting Bees

A. Hyatt Verrill

The Watchman; Aug 24, 1905; researched by Alan Schenker, digitized by Doug Frizzle, October 2011

Perhaps some of my readers may have noticed on their rose bushes a number of leaves in which neat round or oblong holes were cut. This is the work of the leaf-cutting bee, a pretty little insect, looking much like the common honey bee, but with stout orange red legs and metallic green reflections about the head.

Although the mutilated leaves are all too common, the nest for which they are sacrificed is seldom seen, for this little bee is a carpenter as well as a leaf cutter, and hides her home away deep in the heart of some old post or board. The hole is much like that of her busy relative, the carpenter bee, but smaller, and, instead of forming a tunnel at right angles to the entrance, penetrates directly into the wood.

When the hole is drilled to her satisfaction our little friend stops carpenter work, and flying to the nearest rose bush, selects a tender, perfect leaf. From this she cuts oblong pieces, which are carried to the nest and formed into a thimble-shaped tube at its bottom. This tube is next filled with pollen and honey, on which a tiny egg is placed. Another trip is taken to the rose bush, and this time perfectly circular pieces a trifle larger than the diameter of the tube are cut. These the little worker forces into the upper end of the tube, forming a tightly fitting stopper. These operations are continued until the hole is filled with tubes, one above another. The lowest eggs are hatched first, and each young bee waits for the one beyond to go forth, in the same manner as the young of the large carpenter bee.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Eastern Frogs and Toads

Eastern Frogs and Toads

By A. Hyatt Verrill

Popular Science; Oct 1, 1899; researched by Alan Schenker, digitized by Doug Frizzle, October 2011

Owing to popular prejudice, the frogs and more especially the toads, are the least known and studied of all our common animal neighbors, with the exception of snakes. When this foolish repugnance is overcome, however, and we look more closely at their habits, we are surprised to find what really beautiful and interesting creatures they are. In our northeastern states the true frogs belonging to the genus Rana are represented by five species; the true toads of genus Bufo by one species; the spade-foots, genus Scaphiopus by one species, and the tree frogs, or, as they are more commonly called, "tree toads," by three species, representing the two genera Hyla and Acris.

All the frogs and toads of the United States undergo a gradual metamorphosis through a larval or tadpole state, and when in tadpole form are very difficult to identify.

Our commonest eastern frog is the "green frog" or "spring frog"—Rana clamata. This species is bright green varying to bronzy green above, everywhere spotted with blackish or dusky. Below the color is white or pinkish. This frog is entirely aquatic, never leaving its pond or brook in search of insects but sunning itself upon the bank, from which it leaps into the water at the approach of an intruder, uttering a sharp squeak as it does so. In its habits the green frog is rather solitary, and is not noisy, contenting itself with an occasional nasal "chung!" The tadpoles, like those of the bull frog, take two years to mature.

Our next most common species is the "pickerel frog" or "gray frog," Rana palustris, a brownish gray species, ornamented with four rows of squarish darker spots; below, the color is silvery white with inside of thighs bright yellow. The young are golden green. This species prefers cold brooks and springs, from which it wanders considerable distances in search of insects, and on spring or summer mornings is abundant in grassy fields or meadows some distance from water. It is rather solitary in habits, more than two individuals rarely being seen together. It is a remarkable jumper, frequently leaping eight or ten feet. The note is a prolonged croak, somewhat resembling the sound made by tearing coarse cloth.

The well known "bull frog," Rana catesbiana, is a common species and is the largest of North American frogs, frequently attaining a foot or more in length. The color is greenish above, becoming much brighter on the head, marked with more or less numerous spots of dark brown or black. This frog, whose deep bass notes are so familiar to every dweller in the country, prefers rather large bodies of water and delights in bushy wooded shores, where he can sun himself in comparative safety. When captured, this species frequently utters a loud cry of distress, often screaming steadily for more than a minute. The tadpoles are very large, and as before mentioned require two years to reach maturity. The legs, however, appear the first season and the tadpoles then present a curious appearance, frequently hopping about upon the bottom of brooks or ponds or using their legs as an aid to this tail when swimming.

A very beautiful and in some places abundant species is the "leopard frog," "spotted frog" or "shad frog," Rana halecina. This frog is usually bright clear green above, ornamented with numerous dark spots, each spot bordered with lighter green or yellow. There are also usually two large spots between the eyes and a yellow or pale line along each side of the body. The belly is pearly or yellowish. The leopard frog is the most widely distributed of all our frogs, being found in greater or less abundance from Athabasca Lake to Guatemala, and from the Atlantic coast to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This frog is fond of swamps and stagnant water, and is usually the first frog heard in spring. In habits it is gregarious, often swarming in immense numbers in comparatively small bodies of water.

Our fifth and last frog is the "brown frog" or "wood frog," Rana sylvatica, a handsome reddish brown species with a dark band on either side of the head. As its name implies this is a woodland species and is seldom seen in the water unless during the breeding season, when it readily enters ponds or streams to deposit its eggs. The wood frog is a prodigious leaper, even excelling the pickerel frog in this respect. Its color so nearly matches the fallen leaves among which it lives that it is very difficult to discern, and apparently aware of this fact it will often remain motionless until almost stepped on.

The spade-foots are a curious genus of frogs half-way between the true frogs and toads. They are represented in the East by the "solitary spade foot," Scaphiopus holbrookii, a dull olive-brown species, readily distinguished by the spur like process on the heel. These creatures spend the greater portions of their lives in shallow burrows in the ground. In the spring they emerge from their holes and repair to the nearest pool or puddle, frequently in immense numbers, where they deposit their eggs. As these puddles are usually of a temporary character the metamorphosis of the tadpole is very rapid, but varies greatly in different localities; in dry places the young lose their tails when very small, whereas in damp or moist situations they retain this appendage until fully grown and burrowing in the ground. During the breeding season, the spade-foots are very noisy, but after this time they become quiet and disappear entirely, and for this reason are often considered much rarer than they are in reality. The burrows of the spade-foots are very shallow, and they depend upon loose earth falling into the holes for concealment. Oftentimes this loose debris barely covers the head of the owner, and the brassy eye peering out of the earth has a very peculiar appearance.

Our common toad, Bufo lentiginosus, is too well known to require any description. The eggs are deposited in shallow ponds or brooks, and are enclosed in long thick-walled tubes of transparent albumen. These tubes lie in long spiral strings on the bottom of the ponds or pools, and in spring may often be found in immense numbers in such situations. The tadpoles reach the adult stage earlier than the frogs and lose the tail when exceedingly small; they are frequently seen in large swarms in early fall as they migrate from the water to higher land. The toad has availed himself of man's inventions in some localities by making nightly visits to the arc-lights, where they sit about complacently waiting for unfortunate light-blinded insects to fall within their reach. Our commonest tree-toad Hyla pickeringii is much oftener heard than seen. In early spring the shrill whistle of these little fellows issues incessantly from every swamp or bog; so loud and penetrating is the sound of their chorus that it can be plainly heard far more than a mile. After the eggs are deposited the Hylas leave the ponds, and ceasing their music spend their time until autumn among the leaves and underbrush of woods. In the fall the little fellows ascend the trees and once more sing to each other among the reddening leaves. This autumn song, however, is much weaker than that of spring and closely resembles the full note of the purple-finch. It is usually the last note of autumn, and is heard until the severe frosts compel the little Hyla to seek shelter beneath the fallen leaves. The color of this Hyla is yellowish brown marked with dusky spots and lines, but always distinguishable by the X-like marking on the back.

Our other Hyla is H. versicolor, a larger and clumsier species than the last The color is very variable and may be either green, brown, gray or almost white, according to the object on which the Hyla is resting. The most common color is a dull gray marked with black or darker brown, and almost exactly matching the lichen-covered branches wherever he delights to repose. The note of this tree-toad is a loud coarse resonant trill, quite closely resembling the sound of a woodpecker rapping on a dead limb. The note is most frequently heard just before or after rain, and is often considered in rural districts as a sure sign of a shower. The eggs are laid in packets on blades of grass or sticks in shallow water, and the metamorphosis takes place when they are very small.

Our third and last tree-toad is Acris gryllus or the "cricket frog," a small handsome species, abundant in the south but rare or casual north of New York. The cricket frog is brownish in color with the middle of back and head bright pea green. There is also a dark triangular patch between the eyes and a whitish line from eye to ear, with three oblique blotches on the side of body. This little fellow loves the muddy borders of ponds or sluggish streams into which he leaps when alarmed. Unlike the Hylas the cricket frog does not conceal himself among leaves or other vegetation and is consequently much more readily seen. They are good swimmers and remarkable leapers, and are altogether a very active creature. The note resembles closely that of a cricket, and is heard most frequently in early spring in the vicinity of swampy ponds and flooded meadows.

NY Times Solenodon Letter

Trailing the Solenodon.


New York Times; Jan 4, 1936; researched by Alan Schenker, digitized by Doug Frizzle, October 2011

Letters to the Editor

Trailing the Solenodon.

To The Editor of The New York Times:

In connection with the specimens of solenodons in the Bronx Zoo it may be of interest to note that I was the first person to secure specimens of these strange creatures after they had been completely lost to science for over seventy years.

In 1906 I was commissioned to undertake an expedition to the Dominican Republic in search of the supposedly extinct species of solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus), the only specimen in existence at that time being the fragments of a skeleton in the Museum of St. Petersburg, Russia.

My method in carrying out my mission was unique. I had large numbers of postcards printed showing a picture of the solenodon as he was supposed to appear, with a statement that I would purchase specimens or pay for information as to their whereabouts. At the end of six months' intensive search I secured three living specimens. One of these gave birth to two young a day or two after being captured. The mother devoured these and promptly died herself, the other specimens dying a few days later. The solenodons were, however, preserved in formaldehyde and were eventually mounted and placed on exhibition in the American Museum of Natural History, where they remain.

Once the restricted locality where the surviving solenodons existed had been found, it was not difficult to secure others, and several naturalists obtained specimens, some of which were brought to this country alive, although none survived in captivity more than a few weeks.


New York. Dec. 29, 1935.

Origin of the Lowly Vegetable

Origin of the Lowly Vegetable

Primitive Peruvians, 4,000 Years Ago, Were Gentlemen Farmers, and Their Meatless Dinners Might Well Tempt a Modern Gourmet.

By A. Hyatt Verrill

The Washington Post; Sep 15, 1929; researched by Alan Schenker, digitized by Doug Frizzle, October 2011.

THERE is nothing to show that the early Peruvian Indian ever faced a farm relief problem or had congressmen to send him free seeds in the spring. But he was a clever fellow when it came to agriculture, and three or four thousand years before exploring Spaniards and swaggering buccaneers appeared to upset his family circle the Indian raised a variety of fresh vegetables that would be the envy of the modern housewife. In more ways than one the Chimu—for we are talking now of that period of Peruvian history long before the Incas, when the Chimus had conquered most of what is present-day Peru—had modern ideas.

He was primarily a vegetarian. Whether this was due to a scarcity of meat or to a fondness for green things we can not say. The fact remains, however, that there are few bones in the refuse heaps of the period to indicate that the Chimu was a meat eater. From these scrap piles we gather that he occasionally regaled himself and family with a Sunday chicken dinner or a tasty bit of dog meat.

The llama, which might have furnished him with the counterpart of our mutton chop, was a sacred animal, not to be willfully slaughtered. A practical religion that, for the Chimu wisely reasoned that dear llamas meant less milk for babies and less hair for clothing.

After a hard day in the fields the weary Chimu came home to a well-cooked and appetizing vegetable dinner. Set by the fire to keep warm were several earthenware pots from which savory wisps of steam escaped. The lady of the house welcomed home her lord and master and proceeded to ladle a tempting repast from these crocks.

There was, perhaps a piece of melon for an appetizer, for we know that the Chimus raised at least seven varieties, including three kinds of watermelon. After the melon came a bowl of succotash. The Chimu cook could choose from several varieties of corn and nearly as many more of beans. No doubt it was in early Peru that housewives first argued which kind of corn was best on the cob and whether Lima beans or string beans made the better succotash.

The piece de resistance was likely to be a huge baked potato. Whether, when the jacket was broken, it proved to be the white and mealy Irish variety or a succulent golden sweet potato or yam had been previously determined by the whim of the husband on that particular evening. The Chimus specialized in potato growing and developed more than 40 varieties of tubers.

As side dishes the Indian had a choice of peppers, eggplant, squash, tomatoes and peas. We do not find it mentioned that spinach was on the Chimu bill of fare, so we can not blame the Indian for that white man's burden on the modern menu.

For dessert, if there were still room for dessert, the well-fed Chimu could poke about in a basket of fruit until he found something to his taste, be it banana, apple, peach, cherry or strawberry.

During the meal he undoubtedly drank maté, the South American substitute for tea, which in addition to being palatable has beneficent medicinal properties.

After the meal was over and the dinner things cleared away it is to be surmised the Peruvian ancestor indulged himself in chewing a few coca leaves, for the coca shrub, from which cocaine is derived, grows wild in Peru. Accustomed as he was to the drug in this mild form, it is probable that the leaves took the place of the postprandial pipe or cigar. There is little evidence that the early Peruvians smoked tobacco.

The Chimu did not depend alone on the whims of nature to provide him with food. From the few types of vegetables which grew wild on the countryside he experimented in true Burbankian fashion until he had improved upon the strains and had developed numerous varieties of the species, each designed for a particular use.

To avoid the fever ridden swamps and river valleys the Chimu soon learned to remove to the uplands, which, though less fertile than the river bottoms, were far more conducive to normal, health. The barren slopes, however, required artificial irrigation before they would produce foodstuffs, and the ingenious means the Chimu used to divert water to his terraced hillsides would do credit to modern engineering science. How well he succeeded may be gathered from the ascertained fact that in his fields he produced enough grain, fruit and vegetables to feed in the neighborhood of 20,000,000 people. From the ruins brought to light by archeological research we estimate the Chimu population at that number.

Most perplexing to modern science is the skill with which the Chimu worked in metals. In his furnaces he smelted gold, silver and platinum. Lacking iron for tools and weapons, he possessed the long-lost secret of tempering copper to use in its stead. It is extremely doubtful if the Chimu had any knowledge of electricity and electroplating and it is difficult to believe that he could plate one metal upon another by chemical means. Yet plate metals he did, since excavations in Chimu ruins reveal vessels and ornaments of copper and silver which have been plated with gold so skillfully that they compare favorably with articles produced by the most modern electroplating methods.

In fancy we can conjure up pictures of the Chimu artisan in the midst of glowing forges and fuming vats. We see him throw a handful of powder into a seething caldron. We see him watch the mixture anxiously until it clears and cools. And then we see him lift out the copper bowl, and lo! it has been coated with the finest gold. By some subtle and mysterious alchemy he has united the roetais.

All this we may see in fancy. It is a pleasing picture. But your scientist demands facts and formulas. For years he has tried to find out what the Chimu once knew. All in vain. The secrets are buried with the Chimu and the other ancient tribes of Central and South America.

The Chimu never thought of gold, as money. He hoarded it in his treasure vaults, it is true, but he did so because it was beautiful, because it was immutable.

When the Spaniards conquered Peru they found enormous quantities of gold in the Chimu ruins. They carried tons of the precious metal back to Spain. Other tons fell prey to the pirates of the Spanish Main. And undoubtedly as many more tons of gold still lie buried, waiting for the inquiring archeologist.

There are no gold mines in Peru, however, and prospecting fails to show that there were ever gold-bearing strata there. Yet the Chimu had tons upon tons of it. Where did he get it? From what distant gold field was it brought? Did he exact heavy tribute from subject tribes far removed? More secrets that lie burled with the Chimu.

FOUR thousand years ago the Chimu performed minor and major surgical operations. Skeletons show that he performed amputations and abdominal incisions. He trepanned the skulls of his fellow tribesmen when they suffered from brain diseases. He removed eyes from their sockets and he put metal crowns and fillings in his neighbor's teeth.

Crude though his instruments must have been, his patients often survived, for the skeletons show new bone growth over the old wounds.

Was he the first surgeon to operate with anesthetics? Close at hand grew the coca shrub, from which we get our cocaine. It is difficult to imagine even the stoical Indian enduring the pain of this crude surgery without something to deaden the senses.

The dry soil of the Peruvian uplands has been invaluable in preserving the relics of the Chimu era. Laces, woolens, feather costumes and pottery have come down to us remarkably well preserved.

The Chimu was an adept potter. He prided himself on the variety of his designs, and through his modeling in clay we learn more about his daily life and habits, his industries and his recreations than from any other source. Where other races have carved their hieroglyphics in stone the Chimu has left easily comprehensible and accurate pictures of himself in hard baked clay so that we, 30 or 40 centuries later, might marvel at the artistry of what we have been accustomed to think of as the primitive barbarism of the prehistoric South American Indian.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Animals, of Which There Are Numbers on Sand and Rock

Animals, of Which There Are Numbers on Sand and Rock

One Who Wanders Open-Eyed May Find a Multitude of Interesting Objects Cast up by the Waves or Left Behind by the Ebb Tide

By A. Hyatt Verrill

The Christian Science Monitor June 30, 1937; researched by Alan Schenker, digitized by Doug Frizzle, October 2011.

Few persons realize what a teeming life inhabits our shores, whether the shores are sandy beaches, mud flats or rocky ledges. Once they learn where and how to discover this multitude of unsuspected animation, they are not only amazed at the great variety of creatures, but find many of them most interesting and strange. In very many cases, too, the smaller, less conspicuous animals prove more interesting, and often more remarkable, than the larger, more obvious, and hence more familiar forms of shore life.

Wherever you wander along a beach you will find the remains of various marine animals cast up by tides or waves. Aside from the empty sea shells, there will be the carapaces of crabs, lobsters’ claws, dried shrimp, extinct sea urchins and sand dollars, an occasional starfish, and various sponges. While we usually associate sponges with tropical seas, there are a number of species inhabiting the shoal waters of the New England coast. In many places the most conspicuous creatures cast up by the sea are the big king crabs or horse-foot crabs, or, rather, their cast-off shells, for only rarely is a live horse-foot crab left stranded by the outgoing tide.

There will certainly be a number of strange objects which will be a puzzle to most persons. Such as the squarish, black, rubbery things with slender stems or filaments extending from each corner. Probably these have proved a greater puzzle to visitors to the seashore than any other things cast up by the tides. But there is nothing mysterious about them, for they are the egg cases of the common skates or of small sharks. Those of the skates are the most abundant and may be recognized by the fairly short, almost straight filaments, whereas the appendages of the sharks' egg cases are long and usually are twisted or curled. In both cases the capsules are attached to eel-grass or seaweeds by the filaments, and after the young have emerged via a slit in one end the empty capsules become detached and are washed ashore.

Other puzzles are odd strings of thick, crinkled disks, dull yellow or horn color, which at first sight appear like the exaggerated rattles of rattlesnakes, a similarity which is enhanced by the fact that when shaken they emit a rattling sound. These are the egg cases of the common "winkle," "conk," or "whelk," as the shell is variously called. Often, if the disks are opened, the tiny baby shells will be found within, while close examination will reveal the little apertures through which other young shells have safely emerged. All of these objects, with many others, may be found almost anywhere by anyone strolling along the shore.

Hidden from casual sight in and under the windrows of seaweed, kelp and eelgrass, are innumerable creatures. Of all the marine animals, the most familiar are the shells, for not only are they the most numerous, but also they are the most beautiful, and resist the wear and tear of waves and weather. In many places they are piled in mounds and deep rows for miles along the shore, and in some places the beaches are composed wholly of sea shells. As a rule, however, the shells cast up on the beaches are badly weathered, worn and broken, and have lost their original colors. And while an empty shell may be very delicate and beautiful, yet it tells us nothing of the strange habits and life of the animal that once dwelt within it.

At first glance you may think that the pool holds little of interest. Seaweeds, rockweed and barnacles cover the rocks. Here and there clusters of mussels may be seen, and "periwinkle" shells and a few "snails" move slowly about. But presently you will discover that the rocky sides and pebbly or sandy bottom of the pool fairly teem with life. Half-hidden amid the weeds or in the crevices of the stone, are several starfish, some dull reddish or brown, others lilac, purple or even orange, for the common starfish varies greatly in color. Many of the shells prove to be occupied by the droll little hermit crabs. A half-transparent shrimp darts suddenly from its hiding place and vanishes like a wraith in another spot. A bit of the mottled, gray bottom comes most amazingly to life and reveals itself as a little scuttling crab.

A flower-like object protruding from a crevice attracts attention and you discover it is a delicate sea anemone with rose-pink tentacles like petals of a dahlia. And as your eyes become accustomed to the surroundings and take in the details, you will find marine worms with soft, leathery crowns of rose, orange and crimson waving above their snug retreats, with perhaps a serpent starfish, looking like a long-legged spider, as it crawls about. There will be limpits clinging with their proverbial tenacity to the rocks. Among the rock-weed you will discover beautiful golden-yellow and olive-green nerita shells. You will be attracted by a little patch of vivid scarlet and will find it a sponge, and wherever the sunlight strikes downward through the limpid water the Irish moss will glow with shimmering, iridescent hues.

To study and observe life in a tide pool is similar in a way to studying wild life in a forest. At first you see little, but gradually you notice more and more, and just as you may find a wealth of very interesting forms of life by turning over stones or logs, or by raking over dead leaves or examining the bark and leaves of trees and bushes in the woods, so by carefully lifting bits of debris from the bottom of the pool, by parting the masses of rockweed and Irish moss, and by searching the crevices of the rocks, you will find a teeming community of marine life you never suspected. Perhaps you may feel that these little creatures are not particularly interesting: that a snail is just a snail, a starfish merely a starfish, a crab only a crab, and that little may be learned by watching them. But, if so, you are vastly mistaken. The dull-colored, ridged shell crawling over the oyster shell is equipped with a marvelous drill with which it can bore deep holes in the hardest rocks.

The limpits are provided by nature with perfect vacuum cups. If you watch the nervous, scurrying hermit crabs, and are lucky enough to see the little chaps house hunting, you will be fascinated by their almost human actions in their anxiety to select just the right apartment to suit their needs. Moreover, many of the hermits decorate their temporary homes with flower gardens, and by planting bits of living seaweeds, sponges and other plant-like growths upon their shells, they appear like bits of their surroundings and are perfectly camouflaged until they move about. Some species even carry living sea anemones upon their houses and when they move to larger quarters they carefully move their companions to the new home.

So close is this strange partnership and for so long has it been established that there are certain species of the sea anemones and hermit crabs that do not survive if separated. All of the crabs seem to be sociable chaps fond of having chums, and the common spider crabs, which are the ugliest and clumsiest of creatures, are very fond of sharing their lives with other animals. Not only do they permit sea anemones to grow upon their backs and claws, but they even transplant sponges and other marine growths to beds of mud upon their hard and spiny armor. These are carefully tended and pruned, until in course of time they form an effectual concealment as the crabs lie, half buried, in the mud.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of seashore life is the manner in which the denizens of the tide pools play a game of hide-and-seek. The olive and yellow snails among the rockweed "bladders" seem bits of the plants themselves. The rough, brown and gray limpits are scarcely distinguishable from the irregular surface of the wave-worn rock. The mottled crab in the gravel and sand is a wonderful example of nature's camouflage, as are the little "blenny" fishes with their frog-like eyes and foot-like fins, which are scarcely distinguishable from the sand upon which they rest.

Interesting as all these creatures are, yet many of the more commonly seen, everyday animals, which are usually passed by unnoticed, are fully as interesting. In fact, the more you study and observe the familiar denizens of our shores and tide pools, the more truly remarkable and interesting they seem. Even the lowly and obnoxious barnacles are most curious creatures, for, despite their shell-like appearance, they are really crustaceans, related to the crabs and lobsters. Like these, they swim freely about when young, but, at a certain stage of their growth, they settle down, attach themselves to some solid object and develop hard, jointed shells, within which they dwell for the rest of their lives.

One great attraction of the tide pool is that life within it varies with every tide. Each time the water recedes it leaves fresh creatures trapped within the pool, and one never knows what strange, new creatures one may discover, although there are certain members of the little community who never change—the oldest inhabitants, as one might call them—who have found their particular pool the most desirable of homes, and live on, placidly and contentedly, until some terrific storm or some arch enemy or an ardent naturalist puts an end to their existence.

But there is always the chance that when you visit the pool at low tide you may find that some new and unexpected inhabitant has "moved in." It may be a slender-bodied, bold-eyed squid, with its 10 sucker-clad tentacles; some good-sized fish, such as a grotesque sculpin or a gorgeous orange-and-red sea robin with huge, wing-like fins and funny, fleshy, feet-like feelers; or, again, it may be a delicate, phantasmal jellyfish or perhaps a scallop, with its row of brilliant blue eyes, a true marine acrobat, who will amaze you by leaping upward for two feet or more and will swim with astonishing speed. In fact, a really good-tide pool is a constant source of interest and surprises, a real "grab bag" of marine life: nature's own aquarium.

Verrill’s Autochromatic Process

There were some great old time photos attached to this story but unfortunately they do not appear to be by Verrill so could not include them./drf

Verrill’s Autochromatic Process

The Photographic Times - Bulletin; May 1, 1902; researched by Alan Schenker, digitized by Doug Frizzle, October 2011

NO doubt many of our readers have had their attention attracted to articles in the daily press announcing once again the discovery of photography in natural colors. The latest claimant is Mr. A. Hyatt Verrill, son of Prof. A. E. Verrill of Yale College. In response to a letter from us requesting some information regarding his process, Mr. Verrill kindly writes as follows:

"Regarding my color photography experiments, I shall be pleased to give you all the information possible. The process is a secret one, and I therefore cannot give the full details, but can inform you as to many portions of the manipulations. Several plates (negatives) are required, which are taken through special screens on resensitized plates. The paper is worked wet, and is coated with emulsions which by action of light will upon development yield the colors of the screens. The various negatives are then printed; the paper developed for each emulsion and finally cleared, the combinations of the colors in the varying proportions and super-imposition reproducing all the colors of the original. The process is not a gum-bichromate, carbon, or other pigment and bichromate process, but is photochemical, or, rather, solar-chemical, and the prints are fadeless, permanent, and indestructible by ordinary wear and tear. Owing to the fact that several negatives are required, life photographs or portraits are impossible by this process. By a partially mechanical blocking-out variation of the process (in which the various negatives are made by hand from a common original) very accurate and beautiful results can be obtained in portraiture or even from a black and white photograph. The success of the process depends almost entirely upon the emulsions of the paper and a chemical used as a clearing agent, which removes the surplus color and clears up the whites, at the same time fixing and rendering insoluble the color where affected by sunlight. The paper and emulsions will not keep, and the composition of the emulsions is very difficult and delicate work. It is therefore impracticable at present to put the invention on the market. Its greatest value lies in the possibilities it opens up in scientific work. I call the process "Autochromatic" and the prints "Auto-chromes."

Finds Dark Indians in Isolated Tribe

Finds Dark Indians in Isolated Tribe

New York Times; Mar 6,1928; researched by Alan Schenker, digitized by Doug Frizzle, October 2011.

A. H. Verrill, Museum Agent, Tells of Visit to Hostile Group in South America.


Men Are Expert Marksmen With Huge Bows and Arrows—Tribe Has Melanesian Traits.

The discovery in South America of a tribe of dark Indians, resembling some of the black Pacific Islanders or Melanesians, was reported by A. Hyatt Verrill, field agent of the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, who arrived here yesterday on the Grace liner Santa Luisa.

This tribe, which is called the Siriono, occupies a territory about two hundred and fifty miles east of Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Mr. Verrill, who was doing archaeological work in Bolivia for the museum, decided to visit these Indians, who, it is said, had never been visited by white scientists before. The reason for their long isolation is that they have bows ten feet long and arrows eight feet long and an inch in diameter, and are of an inhospitable turn.

Mr. Verrill contrived, however, to meet a few of the Siriono with the help of Indian guides living on the fringes of the Siriono country. Through his guides he carried on some conversation with them.

"The Siriono are considerably taller and different in other respects from the other South American natives," said Mr. Verrill, "and my idea is that they are Melanesian stock and not greatly modified.

"After a long study of the question, it is my belief that the native South Americans, especially those of the west, are immigrants who have crossed the Pacific. There is geological evidence that a great archipelago once existed in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America, so that this continent was connected by a series of island stepping stones with the South Sea Islands.

"The tribe which I visited on this trip seems to have isolated itself and avoided intermingling, so that it preserves the Melanesian characters, which are less distinguishable in other tribes because of the mixing of racial stocks.

"I don't understand why the men stick to their enormous bows and arrows. Bows of six feet or more are common in South America, but these were larger, I believe, than any others in use in any part of the world. They are remarkable marksmen, killing tapirs, peccaries, deer and other game, as well as large fish, some of which weigh forty pounds."

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Mummy Mining in Peru

Mummy Mining in Peru

By A. Hyatt Verrill

ART AND ARCHAEOLOGY Volume 29, April 1930

Researched by Alan Schenker; digitized by Doug Frizzle, October 2011.

EVER since the days of the Spanish conquest, mining mummies has been a more or less lucrative industry in Peru. Not that the mummies were desirable or valuable, but because the Incans and pre-Incans interred ornaments, weapons, utensils and implements with their dead, and some of these were of gold or silver. How many tens of thousands of mummies were thus destroyed no one can guess. In addition to the countless mummies dug up by the professional huaqueros, as they are called, thousands of bodies have been disinterred by archaeologists, curio-seekers and others, while thousands more have been destroyed in the course of constructing railways and roads, digging irrigation-ditches, cultivating land and carrying on various public and private works.

One would think that, years ago, the supply of mummies would have been exhausted. But so vast was the number of dead buried in Peru that, despite all that have been disinterred, practically no impression has been made, and what is more, scientists are continually finding mummies and remains of hitherto unknown people and cultures. No one would dare estimate the number of mummies that were buried or that yet remain even in a small area of the country. From Ecuador to Chile and from the coast to beyond the Andes there is scarcely a square mile without its cemeteries, its mounds or its ruins filled with dead. Many cemeteries cover hundreds of acres; many burial-mounds are stupendous, and in many ruined cities every available bit of ground is filled with mummies. The Huaca Juliana, just outside of Lima—nearly half a mile in length, nearly quarter of a mile wide and over one hundred feet in height— is made up of countless brick cubicles containing mummies, and this is but one of dozens of equally huge burial-mounds in the vicinity. The new urbanization developments about Lima are surrounded by burial-mounds; one of the new highways cuts through the centre of an immense mound filled with mummies, and the homes of the suburbanites are erected over ancient graveyards. It is not unusual to see a modern residence with scattered skulls, scalps, mummy-wrappings and bones within a few feet of the front door, and in cultivating their flower gardens the residents are as likely to turn up skulls as stones. I doubt if there is another country on earth where the inhabitants dwell happily and contentedly in the midst of countless dead; but no one gives the matter a thought, or possibly the people do not regard bodies and bones of men and women a thousand or more years old in the same way as they would regard cadavers of people who had died and been buried recently.

Obviously the majority of the mummies are those of poor and humble peasants, for as a rule the mummy-bundles contain very little of value or interest. Stone, shell or clay ornaments, an occasional stone implement, gourds filled with corn, peanuts or other food; baskets of needles, thread and weaving implements, pouches filled with cotton-seeds, llama-hair slings and cotton spindles are the usual objects found, together with pieces of pottery and various kinds of cloth. But if one is fortunate enough to disinter the mummy of a chief, priest or medicine-man a wonderful collection of archaeological treasures may result. At times they are found with elaborate headdresses of feathers; there is usually a mask or false-face of painted inlaid wood or even of silver or gold; there may be bows and arrows, ceremonial staffs, spears with bronze tips, atlatls or spear-throwing-sticks and ornaments of silver and gold. From one grave I obtained a magnificent bronze battle-axe with handle complete, a most effective weapon still capable of slicing a man's head from his shoulders or cleaving his skull; the star-headed maces of stone or bronze, as well as bundles of quipos or message-strings are quite common. In case the mummy is that of a woman there will be work-baskets, looms—often with partly woven textiles upon them— carded and dyed yarn and sometimes gowns and shawls of the most delicate and beautiful lace, all so perfectly preserved that they might have been buried only yesterday instead of thousands of years ago.

In most of the coastal districts—especially in the Rimac Valley—I should say not one in five hundred mummies is accompanied by any objects of intrinsic value, and that not one in a hundred has anything unusual in the line of textiles, pottery, feather-work or utensils. Yet in other parts of Peru the proportion of richly-decorated mummies is very large, and in a few localities they preponderate, while in only one known district are all, so far discovered, of this type.

Despite all the archaeological work that has been done in Peru during many decades we really know little of the ancient cultures. No one positively can say whether they all had a common origin or whether they were distinct and each race developed its independent culture. No one can assert with certainty which is the most ancient. Even the origin and history of the Incas—the most recent of all Peruvian cultures—are shrouded in mystery and uncertainty. All we do know is that in many places one culture is superimposed on another, and by the stratification of the remains we can determine the chronological order in which they were developed. Constantly we are greeted by the most amazing surprises, the most astonishing discoveries that often—I might say usually—result in adding to the mysteries and puzzles we are trying to solve.

This was the case in the Nasca district of southern Peru. Probably no other ancient Peruvian culture was— or was supposed to be—so well known as that of the Nascans. Practically every museum and private collection in the world contains specimens of Nascan ceramics, textiles and feather-work. Of all known aboriginal American pottery the Nascan holds first place for its beauty and perfection. Of equal beauty and perfection are the Nascan textiles and feather-work, and as a rule these are perfectly preserved with colors as fresh as when first made. This is due mainly to the fact that the Nascans buried their dead in genuine tombs instead of in graves. Each body—when of a prominent personage—was wrapped in cloths and swathed in textile until a bundle several times the size of the body was formed. This was then arrayed in the finest of robes, ponchos, belts and textiles, adorned with silver or gold ornaments, and was provided with a mask and false head covered with human hair. It was then crowned with a gorgeous feather headdress, and the whole was enclosed in a cocoon-like wrapping of coarse cloth.

Opening a Nascan tomb is very different from digging up a mummy in a desert or a mound. Fragments of shards, bones and rubbish mark the burial-places, and the tombs are indicated by the tops of vertical posts. Below the loose superficial sand and pebbles is a small platform of sticks under which is more gravel. When this has been removed for a depth of several feet a strong structure of timbers covered with stones is revealed. This is the roof of the tomb, a large square room walled with stone and adobe, and often as large as a good-sized hut. Placed upon the floor are pots, ollas and vessels of the beautiful Nascan ware, and in the corners, resting backs to walls, are the huge shapeless bundles each containing a mummy.

Owing to the beauty of the Nascan objects and to the abundance of precious metals in the tombs, more systematic mummy-mining has been done in the Nascan area than in any other portion of Peru, for Nascan specimens always find a ready sale and professional huaqueros have always been able to turn an honest penny by disposing of the textiles and ceramics, even when no gold or silver rewarded them.

Yet despite this, despite the fact that practically every archaeologist who has ever visited Peru has had a fling at mummy-mining at Nasca, and despite the fact that all agree the culture was unique, that it was confined to a limited area and that no other culture (other than the late Incan) occurred near Nasca, recent discoveries have completely upset all these ideas and have proved that not only was there a pre-Nascan culture, but a pre-pre-Nascan culture totally distinct from the true Nascan.

These discoveries, made by Dr. Julio Tello of the Lima Archaeological Museum, bear out what I have said regarding the ever-present chances of making epochal discoveries, even in the best known districts of Peru.

Not only were the tombs of the pre-Nascans distinct from those of the Nascans, being cylindrical instead of rectangular, but the textiles, the pottery and the mummies were very different. As many of the Nascan burials were above the others there is no question that the Nascans were the more recent. To what extent the latter were influenced by their predecessors it is impossible to say. In some respects there is a similarity in design, in colors and in motifs, both in the textiles and ceramics, yet they are always distinct and easily recognized. No Nascan pottery can compare with that of the pre-Nascan. In one spot countless thousands of potsherds were found—fragments of vessels wantonly destroyed by the Spaniards. These were collected and when, with infinite labor, they were pieced together, they formed jars and bowls several feet in height, often two inches or more in thickness and completely covered, often inside as well as outside, with most intricate and beautiful designs in the colors for which Nascan ware is famed. Even more remarkable and unique were the pottery figures of llamas, two feet or more in height, beautifully modelled and colored and forming hollow vessels the openings to which were in the form of elaborately decorated cup-like vessels upon the animals' backs.

But Dr. Tello was destined to make an even more amazing discovery. In another spot—though still within the Nascan area—indications of burials were found, and excavations brought to light mummies such as no one ever had seen or imagined. Unlike those of the Nascans, these of Parakas were not in tombs, not even in true graves, but had been placed—as many as forty or fifty together—in huge pits or caverns and covered with sand. As the material was removed the mummies appeared more like conical, dun-colored tents than mummy-bundles for they were pyramidal in form and often six feet in height by six feet in diameter at the base, and bore no resemblance to human forms. They were so huge, so bulky and so heavy that several men were required to lift or move them, and even the smallest were larger than any Nascan mummy-bundles. In the open air they could not safely be opened, but glimpses of their contents, exposed through rents in the outer wrappings, revealed textiles of such beauty that even the most staid scientist might have been pardoned had he executed an impromptu dance and yelled with delight.

Aside from these great mummy-bundles there were specimens of pottery as unique as the mummies. Many were ornately decorated with incised designs combined with colors, others were painted in bright yellow, green and blue with some pigment that gave the effect of oil colors; others were in the forms of fruits, vegetables, birds and animals, but all were of a type unlike anything hitherto known.

That these remains were extremely ancient was proved by representations of llamas with five toes instead of two as in the living species, and skeletons of five-toed llamas were found interred in the graves. Whether these people lived so long ago that llamas still retained five toes, or whether these llamas were a special breed is undetermined. But at the lowest possible estimate the Parakas remains are at least two thousand five hundred to three thousand years of age.

It was not until the mummy-bundles were unwrapped in the museum at Lima that anyone realized fully their tremendous archaeological value, the treasures they contained or the epochal discovery that had been made. As Dr. Tello so aptly expressed it: every bundle was a little museum in itself. And with each section of wrappings removed our wonder and amazement increased. No two were alike in contents, and unwrapping them was like undoing a Christmas package or a game of archaeological grab-bag. It was impossible to foretell what might be within the wrappings, for neither the size nor the external appearance of a bundle afforded any guide as to its contents, and very often the largest bundles held less than the small ones.

Moreover, instead of having the textiles, weapons, ornaments and other objects all together, as is the case with other Peruvian mummies, these from Parakas are covered with a series—strata might better express it—of alternate wrappings and magnificent textiles together with the possessions of the deceased. There is no definite number of these wrappings—they vary from six to sixty or more—and as one never knows what the removal of the next wrapping may expose, the unwrapping of a Parakas mummy is downright thrilling—at least to an archaeologist.

As a rule when the outermost covering of rough white cotton cloth is removed, the bundle is found completely shrouded in immense, gorgeously-colored magnificently-fringed robes of fine woolen cloth. These are usually red and black—though sometimes of gray viscacha hair—woven with elaborate checks, stripes or squares, and almost completely covered with symbolic and highly conventionalized designs in yellow, blue and green heavily embroidered upon the surface. Covering the upper portion of the bundle is a short tunic or poncho of brilliant colors, while above this is an elaborate headdress of fox skin or other material and feathers. Often a collar or necklace of shells, stone beads or gold may be below this.

Carefully removing the textiles, the head-covering, the tunic and the robes, a second, a third and sometimes as many as twenty of the great embroidered shawls are revealed. Tucked among their folds are feather-fans, feather-wands, stone-headed maces, wooden ceremonial sceptres, ornaments of gold, carved-stones, turquoise and shell.

This, however, is only the beginning. Under the last immense robe appears a second shroud of white or brown cloth tied securely at the top to form a false neck and head which is covered with a square of cloth, usually blue or brown. Unlacing the twine with which the shroud is held in place, and stripping off the wrapping, another layer of brilliantly-colored textiles is disclosed. Very often these are as perfectly preserved as the first layer, but quite as frequently they are embedded in a mass of fine, dark-brown powder mingled with bits of fur, feathers, etc-all that remain of what, thousands of years ago, were gorgeous robes and trappings.

Yet when this decomposed material is brushed and blown aside, perfectly preserved textiles are found in and beneath it. As nearly as we can determine this peculiar condition is the result of cloths wet with some chemical solution that were wrapped about the bundle as a preservative. But why this was done, why the decomposition affected only one layer of textiles, are unsolved puzzles. Sometimes the decomposed layer is near the surface, at other times deep within the bundle, and at times there are several such strata with perfectly preserved textiles, feather-work, etc., between them. In the case of the mummy illustrated two rolls of unused, beautifully woven cloth of rich carmine heavily embroidered, were found in the midst of the decomposed debris, and yet they were as perfect and bright as when first taken from the loom.

At this stage of unwrapping—provided there are not over eight or ten layers—the indistinct outlines of the body are visible through the coverings. Here also are usually the maté-bowls, the gourds of corn, beans, etc.; yucca-roots, potatoes and other food; stone weapons, pottery, gold ornaments, etc. Finally, when the last covering is removed, the mummy itself appears, seated on its haunches and resting on its left side amid garments, utensils, cloths, etc., and always in an immense shallow basket, while in some cases the basket-lid is found upon the stomach of the mummy. In the majority of cases the body is decked with gold ornaments, such as ear-plugs, necklaces, gorgets, collars, nose-rings, head-ornaments, etc. Of all Peruvian mummies those of Parakas are the best preserved, for un-like the others they were carefully and skillfully embalmed or mummified before burial. All the viscera and softer portions of the anatomy were removed, the larger muscles were dissected out through incisions in the skin, the tendons were severed at the joints, and the entire corpse was apparently immersed in some chemical—probably a saline solution—and afterwards dried and smoked before burial. Very possibly the bodies were preserved for months or even years before burial, for it would require a very long time to weave and embroider the immense burial-robes, and as none of these show any signs of use we must assume they were made solely for burial purposes. If made after a death took place it is obvious that the body must have been preserved elsewhere until the robes were completed; but of course they may have been woven years in advance and laid aside in readiness for the owner's end. Or again they may have been religious or ceremonial-robes kept in temples and intended only for burial-robes. The objection to this theory is that each mummy is surrounded with robes, ponchos, tunics, cloths and turbans all of the same colors and designs, perfectly matched and distinct from those on any other mummy. So it is clear that they must have been designed especially for each individual—a complete burial-outfit, in fact.

No words can do justice to the beauty, the colors or the quality of these textiles, with designs that, repeated over and over again and completely covering a robe eight or ten feet square, never vary by so much as a stitch or a thread in size, color or pattern. So close and even is the embroidery that only by a most painstaking examination with a lens is it possible to determine that it is embroidery and not weaving. Moreover, these people were, apparently, the only ancient Peruvians who possessed a pictured or recorded calendar. On some robes the border is composed of symbolic figures so arranged that, almost beyond question, the design served as a calendar showing days, months and the four seasons of the year.

At every turn, when studying the Parakas material, one comes face to face with insoluble mysteries. Who were these people? We know from their skeletons that they were far larger than other Peruvian races, for many of the men stood over six feet in height, while some of the women were almost as tall. Although an agricultural race, they were no mean warriors, for their stone weapons were beautifully made and trophy-heads—heads artificially preserved, and with lips and eyelids sewn together—are not uncommon.

Why, in a hot desert country, did they require heavy woolen robes that would have been ample protection is regions of perpetual snow? The first answer would be that the climate changed, that in the days when these people lived what is now a hot area was cold. But in that case why did they require fans? And how could they have cultivated the tropical and subtropical fruits and vegetables that are represented on the pottery and are preserved with the mummies? Finally, if the climate was then cold, what about the bright-plumaged birds of tropical species whose bodies and feathers were used in making the ornaments? There are many other inexplicable things about these Parakas mummies. All so far found have been those of chiefs, priests, nobles or kings and their women. Not a single one has been unwrapped that was the body of a poor person or a peasant, and not a child's body has been found. All have been adults swathed in magnificent robes, with rich ornaments and ceremonial objects. Were all the Parakans wealthy, richly-clad nobles? Was the population so enormous that hundreds of chiefs, priests and nobles were necessary? And why are there no tools, no implements that were used in weaving the countless textiles? Where is the immense quantity of plain and ceremonial pottery these people must have possessed? And where are the ruins of their homes, their palaces and their temples?

There is but one answer. That what we have so far found is merely one small group of burials devoted to the most eminent members of the community, and that somewhere, near at hand, we will yet find remains that may solve all these mystifying puzzles.

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.